December 19, 2012

2012 in Review: Books, Zines, and literary things

What do you do when you move in with someone who has a stunning book collection? Well, after drying the resulting sweat of moving 1,000 + books, zines, and magazines, you do some math and realize that even if you read a book a week for the rest of your life, you may never get through all the books in your home. 

It's a sad thought. So, in an effort to read more in general, and of course to encourage myself to explore all the wonderful reading material in my home, I set myself a goal of reading 30 books a year. 

For 2012, I am happy to say that I reached it (perhaps* exceeded it). A large number of the books are from small press and Canadian authors, which is perhaps my favourite result of the 30-book challenge: items picked up at small press fairs and passed along through friends no longer languish on the shelf, lost amongst the more attention-demanding best-sellers. Realizing that every book I read would help me get closer to my goal encouraged me to spend time with zines and lesser-known literature, which for the most part proved to be weirder and better than your standard bestseller fare.

*I counted audiobooks in this list as well (marked by an asterisk), so for the sticklers in the crowd perhaps I read 30 books and listened to 5. Whatever. I am happy to have plowed through a small portion of our eclectic collection of literature, and look forward to another 30 next year. 

TOP 10 + best magazine that is really kind of a lot like a book

Super Flat Times, by Matthew Derby
All My Friends Are Superheroes, by Andrew Kaufman
Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
Crazy Like Us, by Ethan Watters
Berlin (both volumes) by Jason Lutes
Three Day Road, by Joseph Boyden
The Middle Stories, by Sheila Heti
Unspent Love, by Shannon Gerrard
Elle-Humour, by Julie Doucet
$8.95, by Alan Resnick
Little Brother, Issue 1 (various authors, edited by Emily Keeler)

In (mostly) chronological order (except for the end where I added in all the ones I had forgotten to include):

1. Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen

Lots of people like this book. I am one of them. 

2. Coldwater, by Jamie Ross

An interesting debut from a young author. I think it shows a lot of potential but would have benefited from more editing.

3. A Long Way Down, by Nick Honrby

Just say no to Nick Hornby. Oh my god why did I read the whole thing. Must have been because I was in the country with little else to do. Big mistake. 

4. Red Light On The Prairies: the bonanza years when the wide open frontier was a hooker's happy hunting ground, by James H. Gray

So. Fucking. Great. A history of prostitution in the early days of the prairies - entertaining and informative. I think the subtitle says it all.

5. Dress Your Family In Cuorduroy and Denim, by David Sedaris

David Sedaris is great, though I couldn't shake the feeling that I had possibly already read this book. It's kind of bad not to remember, no?

6. Crazy Like Us, by Ethan Watters

A fabulous book about the exportation of the American definition of mental illness to countries around the world. Best book so far! A must-read.

7. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg * 

Meh. Okay. Glad that it was audiobook and I wasn't wasting my precious reading time on it.

8. Berlin, City of Stones, by Jason Lutes

FANTASTIC. Totally falling in love with graphic novels because of this.

9. Unspent Love, by Shannon Gerrard

A gift from the author and JP and I both read it within a few days of receiving it. So lovely and a little bit sad. Now we leave it on our coffee table and guests often read it when they stay with us. It's all part of our secret Shannon Gerrard fan-club recruitment mission.

10. Wheat Belly, by William Davis * 

Bleah. Repackaged Atkins diet mumbo-jumbo. Again, thank god this was an audiobook. I live with someone who can't eat wheat anyway. What was I thinking? Waste. Of. Time. 

11. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby

Of course you know that you must read this book and also see the movie. Not necessarily in that order.

12. Farenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

A classic for a reason. Loved it. Ray Bradbury was a fortune-teller for sure. 

13. Berlin, City of Smoke, by Jason Lutes

Two down in the Berlin trilogy. I thought there was a third and am dismayed to discover that this was the final one. More Berlin books, Jason! Don't deprive us. 

14. Freakonomics, by Stephen Levitt * 

Meh. Pretty interesting at times, but I think my enjoyment of it was marred by the supremely shitty documentary based on the movie and some bad experiences listening to the podcast, which came across as surprisingly right-wing (see more on Levitt's politics here:

15. Three Day Road, by Joseph Boyden

Beautiful and horrifying. A gift from my step-dad, who has great taste in literature. Would definitely recommend this frightful read about the horrors of the First World War and colonization. 

16. Imagine: How Creativity Works, by Jonah Lehrer *

The first audiobook that wasn't a total waste of time! Actually this guy is pretty smart and this was a good listen, even if it did turn out in the end that parts of it were made up. 

17. Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine, by Stanley Crawford

The award for weirdest book of the year (and therefore one of the most enjoyable) goes to this tale of a couple stranded at sea for a lifetime.

18. The Re: Visionist, by Miranda Mellis

I...don't really remember reading this. But it is on the list. Daaaamn. 

19. The Middle Stories, by Sheila Heti

A great collection of short stories. The one with the mermaid is probably one of my favourite short stories of all time. 

20. Art & Sexual Politics: Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?, ed. by Thomas B Hess and Elizabeth Baker

I figured it was time to read this 1970s classic. It was utterly depressing. Not much has changed. Not enough, anyway. 

21. Younger Next Year *

The subtitle of this self-help book for baby-boomers is "How To Live Like You're 50 into your 80s". I very much enjoyed it. So there.

22. Super Flat Times, by Matthew Derby

From the story of the little boy who clings to the meat tower, to the war where the machines are built to hurt rather than kill, to the land where all food is made of meat…I want to crawl inside this man's brain and never leave. 

23. Self-Made Man, by Norah Vincent

Norah went undercover as a man for a year in an attempt to discover what the world is like when experienced through the eyes of the other gender. An interesting account, even if it ultimately fails to be journalism due to the highly personal nature of her experience. 

24.When All Our Days Are Numbered Marching Bands Will Fill the Streets and We Will Not Hear Them Because We Will Be Upstairs in the Clouds, by Sasha Fletcher

abstract / beautiful / sad / prose / poems

25. You Are A Cat! by Sherwin Tjia

In the vein of the choose-your-own-adventure books from the 90s. At once far more simplistic than the originals…and yet far more sinister. Really enjoyed it. Read ALL the adventures. 

26. Families Are Formed Through Copulation, by Jacob Wren

The title essay from this collection is absolutely, wonderfully, hilarious. I look forward to reading more by this author.

27. Typography Sketchbook, by Stephen Heller and Lita Talarico

A look inside the sketchbooks of some of the world's leading typographers. Eye candy. 

28. Upper Playground 2

A collection of art by some of the biggest names in the mostly American low-brow & graffiti scene. The kind of book I would have loved when I was 18 but ultimately, 10 years later, found rather disappointing. It was oh-kay. 

29. Elle-Humour, by Julie Doucet

A stunningly beautiful collection of Julie Doucet's collage-poems and images. One of the nicest examples of what a book can be that I picked up this year.

30. All My Friends Are Superheroes, by Andrew Kaufman

Possibly my favourite book this year. I can't get enough of how this man's brain works, and highly recommend reading his other stories, including the Tiny Wife and a story from the now sold-out first issue of Little Brother.

31. Traumstadtdenken, by Rupert Bottenberg

Comics on acid. 

32. Three Word Phrase, by Ryan Pequin

I read this sick as a dog, coughing up my lungs on my friend's couch. It is really funny and made me feel way better.

33. $8.95, by Alan Resnick

JP picked this up on the merch table at a Dan Deacon show. The entire book is transcriptions from Chat Support sessions with Bank of America employees. It is, surprisingly, very funny. 

34. Making Ideas Happen, by Scott Belsky

Written by the founder of the Behance network, this is a self-help organization book for artists. On the organization front, I need all the help I can get. This book actually really helped me calm down about all the projects I have on the go, and yes, I bought the associated product (the Action Method). Don't knock it 'till you've tried it. So far it has helped me a lot. 

35. Little Brother, Issue 1 (various authors, edited by Emily Keeler)

I almost forgot to include this, since it is technically a magazine. But it looks and feels like a book, so to hell with it: on to the list it goes! Totally great content and layout from start to finish in this new magazine that explores the relationship of little things to big things. My favourite text was Andrew Kaufman's short story, though Chris Randle's text on the pressure Canadians face to situate their stories in America was a close second. Other magazines on my radar this year: Maisonneuve, Print, and Carousel. 

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